A mob of Hindu extremists violently attacked two pastors and stopped them from hosting a gospel meeting in Chhattisgarh state, India.
The pastors, Vijay Jogi and Santosh Rao, were just minutes away from starting their three-day gospel meeting when Hindu nationalists surrounded the building. Some 1,000 people had reportedly gathered to hear the gospel.
"Pastor Vijay Jogi and Pastor Santosh Rao were receiving the people at the entrance," Pastor Amos James told Morning Star News. "Suddenly a mob of 70 Hindu Dharm Sena and Bajrang Dal activists encircled the entrance, and Pastor Jogi and Pastor Rao were beaten and summoned to the police station."
"The activists slapped Pastor Santosh Rao thrice and beat us both," Pastor Jogi said. "By then we understood that these people will not let us conduct prayers."
The Government Railway Police called the pastors to the station and warned them to cancel the meeting.
"The police told me to settle the matter here and stop the event immediately," Pastor Jogi said. "I was cautioned while Pastor Rao and I were in the police station that the activists are tearing and burning the banners, breaking the tube lights, chairs and dismantling the stage. The police officer told us even if he lodged a case against the extremists, it would go strongly against us, and that even he can't help it."
Just like every year, the church leaders received permission from the railway and the railway police to conduct the event. However, this year, the extremists said the organizers also needed permission from the sub-judicial magistrate.
The extremists also took issue with the invitations the pastors used to get people to the event.
"In the pamphlets we distributed earlier inviting people to attend the meeting, I quoted Luke chapter 7 and verses 22 and 23," Pastor Jogi said. "The Hindu activists began arguing with us, 'You are promoting blind beliefs. How can lame walk? How can deaf hear? How can you raise the dead? When your God can do all this, why are you people going to the doctors then?'
"They told me it is very wrong that I have written these lines. I said, 'I did not write these words. It's a verse taken from the Holy Bible and applies to the entire humankind," Jogi added.
The pastor said he tried explaining the verses but the mob didn't listen, saying the verses "offended" them.
"I immediately responded with apologies," Pastor Jogi said, telling them, "If because I quoted these lines in the pamphlet, it is offending you at personal level, I apologize to you brothers. We are very sorry!"'
The Hindu extremists also repeatedly asked the pastors, "Why are you calling Hindus to your events? Why are you conducting open gospel meetings publicly? Why are you converting Hindus?"
The police told the pastors not to talk to Hindus anymore.
"Right in front of the police they warned, 'You must never go to a Hindu's house, you work among the Christians only,'" Pastor Jogi told Morning Star News. "I told them our Christian meetings and gatherings are open for all. I don't ask each person who attends the prayers whether they are a Muslim or Hindu. When we gather, it is in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ we gather, and His arms stretch out to everybody."
These types of attacks against Christians happen regularly in this part of India. Regardless, the pastors say they will continue preaching the gospel and loving the lost.
"My daughters, ages 13 and 5, ask me, 'Why is there so much opposition to the gospel, Dad? Why do they hate Jesus? They hate us because we are Christians?'" Pastor Jogi said with tears in his eyes. "I tell them, 'They may hate Him, but the Lord still loves them. And, we must love everyone just as our Lord is loving us.'"
"We will conduct the gospel meetings ag ain in May. We are not giving up this time. With permissions from all the authorities and government officials, we will conduct the meetings," Pastor Jogi continued. "The activists are following me wherever I go. I know there is threat to my life. But I have dedicated my life fully to my Lord's work, and I will be at it till my last breath."
India ranks 15th on Open Door's World Watch List of countries where persecution is the highest.
This is partly due to the radical Hindu government's increased hostility towards Christians.
"Since May 2014, India has been governed by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As a result, radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily. While the level of intolerance continues to increase, Christians are regularly attacked by radical Hindus," Open Doors says on its website. "They are constantly under pressure to return to their old beliefs, and are often physically assaulted, sometimes killed."